Monday, December 17, 2007

It's A Wrap

One Christmas, a group I was a part of had a gift exchange. We all brought wrapped gifts that were under a certain dollar amount. After the eating and talking and laughing part we placed all the presents on the floor and sat in a circle around them. Then we drew numbers out of a hat. Number One picked a gift. Number Two got to either pick a gift or take the gift from Number One. And so on around the circle. And when everyone had a present, we all opened the gifts.

The first gift to be picked up was gorgeous - shiny silver wrapping paper with a large, glittery silver bow. It was a work of art...that contained a rather lame ornament.

The last gift to be picked was mine. I am not a gifted wrapper and my poor little offering looked like a two year old had helped wrap it (which was probably the case). But, and I say this not to boast, my gift was the best. I had searched long and hard for just the right item for that group and there was a collective intake of envious breath as the last gift-picker revealed her treasure. Each of them had passed over the wonderful gift because of it's appearance.

The moral? Well, the obvious is the one about judging a book by its cover, but the one I'm going for here is that it's all about presentation. This is a lesson I struggle with all the time. I'm in such a hurry to be done that I rush the final step - presentation- and it's the presentation that sells. Whether it's food, clothes, or gifts, you buy with your eye before you reach for your wallet (or fork).

A friend of mine has an amazing gift for making things beautiful. She is the queen of wrapping and has frequently been told she should open up a business doing gift wrapping. But she always says no because it's a labor of love for her to find just the right wrap, just the right gift tag, just the right large ribbon, the right coordinating smaller ribbon, from which hangs the perfect charm.

She gave me a lesson in wrapping once and my packages improved in appearance, as long as I was willing to take the time.

She popped into my mind the other day when I was throwing together a batch of cookies. The son-in-law-to-be is back in town and I wanted to make his favorite cookies. Then I thought, with my friend in mind, why not take it up a notch and make them something special? So to his favorite chocolate and peanut butter cookie I added more chocolate. Then some peanut butter topping. Then a smooth chocolate ganache sliding over it all. The result? A fabulous cookie that was lifted from cookie jar status to first-to-go at the buffet table.

Perfect Presentation Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cookies

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1-1/4 cups butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Peanut Butter layer:

1-1/3 cups peanut butter
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp butter, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Chocolate ganache:

3/4 cup heavy cream
8 oz. chopped semi-sweet chocolate

1- Heat oven to 350 deg. F.

2 - Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.

3- Beat butter and sugar in the large bowl of a mixer until it's fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating well. Stir in the chips.

4 - Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 8 minutes. Do not overbake; the cookies will puff up while baking and flatten while cooling.

5- Cool for two minutes on the cookie sheet then remove to a wire rack. Cool completely.

6- In a mixing bowl cream together the peanut butter and butter. Add the powdered sugar and blend until smooth.

7 - Top each cookie with 1/2 to 1 tsp of the peanut butter mixture, spreading it to 1/4-inch from the edge. If possible, place the cookies in the refrigerator to set while making the ganache.

8 - Place the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a saucepan till it's steamy but not boiling. Pour the cream over the chocolate. Let it sit for two minutes then stir till smooth. Top each cookie with ganache so that just a hint of the peanut butter shows.

Return the cookies to the refrigerator to set the ganache, at least two hours. Store the cookies in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Not just over the top woman, you've taken it over the moon! Oh what goodness - chocolate and peanut butter and then top it with chocolate and peanut butter!!

Peabody said...

It is presentation that sells...but the good eats that keeps them coming back. My hubby would be loving these so.

Marcia said...

Decadent chocolate + luscious peanut butter + gorgeous presentation: I think I'm in love with these cookies! Any chance you can mail a couple of these to Brazil? Happy holidays!

Anonymous said...

I would probably try to hide a few of these in my pockets from the buffet table...when I was a child, of course.
(Yeah, sure Melinda!)
They look terrific. If they can go to Brazil, they can go to England too!
Merry Christmas to you Lynn and your family!

Patricia Scarpin said...

My dear friend, don't bother wrapping my cookies - they will be gone so fast that no wrapping is necessary! :)

Gigi said...

They look indulgent + delicious= bake me! What a great cookie.

Anonymous said...
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Muffin said...

They look tasty!

Anonymous said...

Awww, your present story is why people should never judge a book by its cover! Though I have to admit that my mother always said that people appreciate with their eyes before anything else, hence has always stressed presentation as key - something I've only recently started paying attention to!

The cookies look utterly adorable, and particularly that last picture makes me want to lick my screen - num!

Ellie @ Kitchen Wench

Happy Homebaker said...

dear Lynn, I have been learning from my elder boy that it's not the presentation that matters, he has been telling me not to worry whether the cake looks's the taste that's counts. I'm trying my best to stick to his "advise" ;p

Your cookies look fabulous...a display of your labour of love!

LizNoVeggieGirl said...

Lynn, it's no surprise that your gift ended up being the best - you're so talented and crafty!! oh and those cookies ARE the epitome of a perfect presentation - so lovely!

Amy said...

Wow these are awesome! They definitely are the perfect presentation.

Anh said...

These are truly special, Lynn!

And Happy Holidays to you and your family. :)

eatme_delicious said...

Ooo what an excellent creation. I get frustrated when it comes to making things look good because I feel like all my attempts just make the end product look like I tried but had no idea what I was doing (which was probably the case). I think I'm slowly figuring it out though, but often times just give up as long as it tastes good!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

My Kitchen In Half Cups - Ooh, maybe I should call them Over The Moon cookies.

Peabody - We'll have to come up with a peanut butter solo version for you.

Marcia - Hmm, I don't think they'd travel well. Sorry!

Melinda - I think you could whip up a batch of these in England and then you'd have plenty to share (or not). I hope you're having a grand time with your daughter!

Patricia - What? When did I open up an international cookie business? I know my memory is going, but I surely would have remembered something like that!

Gigi- Thanks!

Muffin - What's not to love?

Ellie - Licking the screen wouldn't be nearly as tasty as the real thing. Plus then your monitor would be all smudgy. Go ahead and make them! (I think I included all the directions. :-)

Happy Homebaker - Well, for children, especially boys, presentation means, "Here's food. Eat up!" And if it's got sugar in it, bonus!

VeggieGirl - Such kind words! I don't necessarily believe them, but I might print them out and put them in my stocking for Christmas.

Amy - Thanks, sweetie!

Anh - Thank you. And the same to you, dear.

Eatme Delicious - Oh, we sound like two peas in a pod. Or would that be two chips in a bag?

Megan said...

Love the cookies but I want to know what the present was. And I guess since your not sending any out, I'll have to try the recipe.

Megan said...

Love the cookies but I want to know what the present was. And I guess since your not sending any out, I'll have to try the recipe.

Deborah said...

I love anything peanut butter - these look amazing!

Anonymous said...

Those look spectacular, and I vote for calling these Over The Moon cookies, too. Both my husband and my mom love the chocolate/peanut butter combination -- I can't wait to try these! Thanks so much for posting the recipe!

Nicole Brady said...

Lynn - Thank you, ever so much, for a very unwelcome new 10 lbs. I wanted to make some cookies with my girls (5 and 3) and was desperate for something besides PB or the regular Choc chip. We have an allergy to semi-sweet so I used milk chocolate chips. And since my PB chips were MIA, I added extra choc chips to the base. The ganache didn't work with milk choc, duh, but I let it set up a little then added it as a glaze. I'm looking forward to making them again with the PB chips and trying a different approach to the ganache.

All I can say is, I hate you and need to take you off my RSS feed because you're going to make me need to double my gym time.

Seriously though, even with my modifications, the cookies were heavenly. (Not pretty, but delicious.) Thanks for the recipe and the inspiration to veer away from the ordinary.

AnickH said...

wow those are gorgeous. i love ganache and i love peanut butter